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July 14, 2024

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The Ugly Organ (Saddle Creek)

By: Alex Steininger

On their forth full-length, Omaha, Nebraska's post-punk-core outfit Cursive deliver their most extreme - melodically and thematically - record to date. A record ripe with insecurities, intense feelings of loneliness, and post-divorce afterthoughts, The Ugly Organ examines frontman Tim Kasher's life after the divorce (the divorce being the main theme of 2000's Domestica).

Striving to not create the same record, Cursive once again creates a record different than its predecessor, yet uniquely Cursive. Kasher and company's abilities to pound on you with a pulsating rhythm section, slicing and guitars, and screaming vocals. And then only moments later caress you with a melody reminiscent of a warm blanket, The Ugly Organ's chameleon like features, and its anger-turned-depressed lyrics, make it a real treat for any occasion.

The album's poppiest moments are delivered in "The Recluse", a three-minute song about one-night stands and desperation dictating the male in the character (Kasher) trying to prolong the one night stand out of fear of loneliness. From a whisper to a lonely snarl, Kasher ponders "how did I end up here to begin with?" as he struggles with the situation he's in. The cello adding a dark texture to the song, while the lighthearted, melodic jangle and feathery feel of the song - given some meat by the rhythm section - dissects the otherwise emotionally heavy song.

The heavy, melodic "Butcher the Song" combines a hardcore mindset with a swelling pop feel, as the emotional voices deliver a holding-back-the-tears scream, the chilling cello bringing tears to your song, and the carnival-esque organ giving the song a wry sense, all while the band rocks out and delivers a spellbinding, heart-stopping outpour of three and a half minutes of raw emotion.

The bouncy "Driftwood: A Fairy Tale" is another one of the album's poppy moments, its post-punk rock guitars collides with its melodic delivery, as your toes tap and your head bops, all while your mouth moves and you sing along to its every word.

The band sums up everything they're about on "A Gentleman Caller". A song that comes at you full throttle to begin with, the guitars blazing, the vocals screaming, and the rhythm section giving it their all. The cello enters and the song takes a quick 180, erasing the harshness with a tenderness hard to match, a comforting, somber breakdown that asks "who told you that love was fleeting?" and proclaims "sometimes men can be so misleading, to take what they need from you". The song concludes with the phrase, "the worst is over", repeating it a few times, in a comforting phrase, comforting both you and themselves as everyone tries to sink into those words and believe in them.

The epic, ten-minute "Staying Alive" further explores the belief that "the worst is over", repeating those words as vocals harmonize, giving it a choir-like feel. All with the cello's darkness turned to warmth, enriching the words and adding a lovely-orchestrated feel to it. The song, and the album, wind down and close out as the words "the worst is over" become enchanting and alluring, lifting your spirits and making you believe.

That is what is so beautiful about this album. It helps you have fun, makes you feel better, and gives you comfort in your time of need. I'll give it an A+.

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